All posts by msubrahmanyam

Conor McGregor: Rich, Brave, and Totally Screwed

Conor McGregor is a brave man. Conor McGregor is a smart man. Conor McGregor is going to get his ass whupped six ways to Saturday if and when he steps in the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena on August 26 to fight Floyd Mayweather.

That’s not a knock on Conor, the same way it isn’t insulting to say that I would probably lose in a sprint against Usain Bolt. It’s simply a fact of life. There are several reasons to believe that Conor is going to get outclassed in the ring come August 25, all of which stem from the fact that, as confirmed by UFC President Dana White, the upcoming match will be a pure boxing match. Boxing presents insurmountable disadvantages to Conor which will, in the end, allow Floyd to either make quick work of him, or cruise to a decision victory.

The first of these disadvantages comes simply from the time spent practicing the sport. Regardless of whether Conor McGregor is a striker or not, his style has developed to defend kicks, elbows and takedowns as well as punches. His style does not even resemble that of a classic boxing stance, the sort which has proven to be the most fundamental of requirements in boxing. Instead, Conor’s usual stance, lacadasical, his feet held apart and arms held far out from his chin in a manner that reminds one of old bare knuckle boxers, is ill suited to the boxing ring, where heavy gloves and less space mean that one has more of an advantage in holding their hands closer to block incoming punches. This kind of a disadvantage is not exactly a damning fact, as one would imagine that Conor’s preparation would allow him to make the adjustments needed to settle into a more standard stance. It does, however, highlight just how out of his element McGregor will be in a boxing ring, and how lacking he is in traditional boxing experience.

What should cause McGregor some concern, however, is that one of his signature features as a fighter will also be rudely ripped from his arsenal during this bout, namely, his ability to pressure. While Conor’s reach allows him to punish lesser strikers from stepping in against him, Conor’s main tool to pressure opponents backwards has always come from his kicks. His front snap kick to the body, along with his round kicks and heel kicks allow him to force his opponents to either come towards him and get countered, or move backwards towards the cage. We saw the results of what happens when such pressure fails in both of Conor’s fights against Nate Diaz, whose inhuman chin and conditioning, combined with his longer reach allowed him to step in against McGregor. Against Floyd, McGregor will no longer be able to deploy his kicks, and will therefore be forced to pressure with his hands. Floyd’s reputation as a defensive genius also means that Conor might find himself in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of being the lead fighter, rather than being able to sit and wait for the counter. Therefore, when in the lead, Conor will be in unfamiliar territory with his main pressure weapons removed from his arsenal. Next, we will look at the fight on the counter.


Conor McGregor’s best work has almost unfailingly happened on the counter. Just because his opponents were the ones with their backs to the cage, does not mean that McGregor initiated the majority of the exchanges. In both the Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez knockouts, Conor waited for his opponents to commit to their punches before catching them leaning in with his rocket of a left hand. Even before the UFC, as we can see from his fight with Ivan Buchinger, McGregor’s bread and butter involved pressuring opponents into the cage, before evading a few of their punches and then cracking them on the counter with his left. What makes McGregor good is not the complexity of his meta-game, but rather the simplicity of it, and his mastery over the skills needed to execute it. However, we have seen Conor wilt under pressure when he cannot execute this game. Nate Diaz put a hurting on Conor when he was able to deny McGregor his ability to pressure. Chad Mendes, before he wilted, was able to give Conor serious trouble by executing takedowns when he was pressured. Even in his second fight with Diaz, which McGregor won by a close decision, Conor found himself having to jog away from Diaz in order to avoid getting overwhelmed. Despite that, he was caught in a nasty position in the third round against the cage, where many foes of the elder Diaz brother, Nick, met their end. Had Nate Diaz been able to fix Conor in place, there is little doubt he could have pressured Conor for the finish.

In the ring with Floyd, Conor may find himself unable to pressure his opponent, given Floyd’s defensive prowess and Conor’s lack of kicking opportunity. This means that Floyd will have the opportunity to pressure Conor, and if he wins exchanges on the counter, the smaller ring offers far less of a chance for McGregor to keep his back off the ropes. Floyd will not make the same cage-cutting mistakes that Diaz did in his second fight, and could easily find himself with a timid Conor on the ropes in front of him. In this case, McGregor will be hard pressed to get himself off the cage and back into the fight.

The x-factor, as it always is with McGregor, is KO power. However, the boxing glove, when compared to the UFC glove, is designed to cause less knockouts. Furthermore, Floyd has remained lucid through his last 49 fights, and I am unconvinced he is not going to start taking naps now.

All of these factors indicate that Conor McGregor has talked himself into the biggest, most valuable embarrassment of his life. This is going to be a freakshow fight, the likes of which are rarely seen out side of Japan (Rizin Fighting Federation once pitted a pro-wrestling grandma against giant female jiu jitsu practitioner Gabi Garcia). That said, everybody needs a freakshow once in a while, and Conor McGregor has dreamed into reality the biggest freakshow fight in the history of two people punching each other in the face. The real victory for both men is that it’s going to rain down dollars on ‘Money’ and ‘Notorious’, so we needn’t worry about the sport. This one’s about the spectacle, brought into being by the swaggering trash talk of a mad Irishman. So as much as I know Floyd Mayweather has every advantage going into that boxing ring, I will be rooting for Conor and I sure as hell will be tuning in to check out their $600 million dance on August 26.

Dana White: You Either Got It Or You Don’t

In a recent episode of his podcasts, ex-UFC star and current Bellator Light Heavyweight Chael Sonnen described Dana White by saying, “Fight promotion isn’t something you can major in in college. You can’t buy a textbook for that. You either got it or you don’t and Dana White- man, Dana White has got it.”

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White (left) and Sonnen (right)

Now, Dana White is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a popular figure in Mixed Martial Arts. Plenty of fans and fighters alike will rightly criticise him for underpaying fighters, twisting the truth for the sake of the promotion, and occasionally being a little too brash on Twitter. However, Dana White is still a figure. Indeed, in his operational style, Dana White has always been more of a Vince McMahon than an Adam Silver.

Whether the fighting world likes it or not, Dana White has always been the face of the UFC, the physical representation of the organization as a whole. In fact, at times, it would seem that Dana was all-powerful, deciding which fighters stay and which fighters go based on a whim. Shows like “Looking for a Fight” and “Dana White VLOGs” brought the promotion president front and center in the minds of MMA fans (not that he had ever been anywhere else). White’s brash comments and candid media appearances earned him a reputation for being a loud mouthed, brash president. In fact, White had no qualms about airing his grievances about any employees and promotions. One thing about Dana White, if he put together a bad night of fights, he would be the first one to call it out. All of these characteristics can tell the perceptive fan one thing about Dana White, just about the only thing that really matters: White loves fights. It is precisely this love that has allowed him to take a business that was worth about $40 million in the hole and sell it for $4 billion. It is precisely because Dana White loves fights that he could promote them so effectively, and that he could continue to run a business at the highest level after nearly 20 years on the job. Dana White gained a few thousand pounds, lost all his hair, and is still going because he loves the sport that he helped build. Make no mistake; if you don’t have Dana White, you don’t have MMA. It’s as simple as that.

So, as an MMA fan, it doesn’t matter whether you think he should pay his fighters more, or aim to be less misleading to fans, or more politically correct on Twitter. If you’re a fight fan, you love Dana White because, yeah, he can be kind of a meathead sometimes but man, Dana White gets it. He understands why fight fans are FIGHT fans. Dana White is the UFC personified. He knows that it doesn’t matter if he’s a little vulgar or rough around the edges. He’s raw, he’s real, and he gives us what we love because he loves it too. Today, when the UFC is going through major structural changes due to its sale to WME-IMG, it is possible that we may be seeing the end of the Dana White era of the UFC. If rumours of how WME-IMG want to present the UFC are true, we may soon see Dana White be replaced by a stuffed suit who gives press-friendly conferences and maintains a politically correct, pseudo-robotic Twitter account. However, that will be a sad day indeed, because the one thing most needed for the job above all, is passion for the sport, and Dana White has it in spades.